The ST is Ford's first “global” performance car and will be sold in more than 40 countries. Built in Germany the ST is up against some stiff competition, but it's got the right pedigree and commands plenty of respect.
There will be no shortage of punters lining up to get their hands on the hot hatch, a long and eagerly awaited replacement for the XR5 Turbo. Although known as the XR5 here, it was actually the ST overseas.
Launched in 2006, Ford has sold almost 6000 of the cars here, priced at $35,990. The XR5's turbocharged 2.5-litre five cylinder engine was good for 166kW/320Nm and it did the dash from 0-100 in 6.8 seconds. The new one is 40kg lighter and is cheaper, faster and better equipped.
Just the one model, with the one engine, one transmission and one suspension tune, priced from $38,290. Satnav is standard but it's a small display and does not provide speed camera warnings. There's no option to display the car's speed digitally either.
Ford makes a big deal of the Microsoft based Sync system in this and others models. The problem is that's not fully functional in this country and really provides only Bluetooth, with audio streaming and voice control. The Sony audio system boasts nine speakers.
If anything the styling is understated. The car sits 10mm lower than a standard Focus, with ST tuned sports suspension, a body kit and rear wing, LEDs, bi-xenon lights and Boxster style twin centrally mounted tailpipes.
It rides on 18 inch wheels with 235/40 series Goodyear tyres, that protrude further than the rim providing some protection from gutter scrapes. Sadly, though, unlike the XR5, there's no GT stripes available at least not for the time being.
Comes in a range of colours, but the standout is by far and away the hero Tangerine “Learner plate” yellow from where we're standing. The cabin has eye catching colour-coded, part leather Recaro sports seats (front and back). But the multi-layered dash is perhaps a little bit too busy and can be confusing until you become familiar with the position of the various functions.
It's basically the same 2.0-litre Ecoboost turbocharged, direct injection engine from Mondeo and the Falcon, but in a different state of tune with some bits added and others replaced.
The end result is an engine that kicks out 184kW of power at 5500 revs and 360Nm of torque from 2000 revs, with drive to the front wheels through a trick diff.
The turbocharged four is paired with a short-shifting 6-speed manual with lockout reverse (there's no auto). The dash from 0-100km/h takes 6.5 seconds and it has a top speed of 248km/h. Fuel consumption from the 62-litre tank is 7.4 litres/100km and it takes premium unleaded.
Gets a full five stars for safety, with six airbags and a host of safety features including a reversing camera.
The sports hatch segment is fiercely competitive and there will be plenty of people out there comparing the figures. Suffice to say the Focus ST looks the part and is a treat to drive, with a sporty, attention-getting exhaust note. The ST sits securely on the road, with a low centre of gravity and desirable "planted" feel.
It features variable ratio electric power assisted steering and torque vectoring to provide added traction in corners. There's some squirm as the front wheels scrabble for traction on takeoff, but that's only to be expected. The clutch and gear change are smooth and easy to use, but some drivers complained that the centre console snagged their elbow.
The ride is thankfully not too soft, even though it is engineered for global tastes and the more you drive the car the more confidence in its grip and cornering ability grows rounding up nicely on the other side of corners. The stability system has sport and off modes and the steering weights up as the car's speed increases. Braking is strong and progressive, with 320mm front stoppers that have been upgraded.
We like. You can argue the toss over whether it is better than the Golf GTI or the fabulous Megane RS. The fact is it's great fun to drive, offers high levels of performance and represents excellent value at $38,290.
Ford Focus ST 2.0-litre five-door hatchback
Price: from $38,290
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Safety: 5-star ANCAP
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl petrol, 184kW/340Nm (360Nm with overboost)
Transmission: 6-speed manual, FWD
Dimensions: 4358mm (L), 2010mm (W), 1474mm (H)
Spare: temporary steel
Thirst: 7.4L/100km, 172g/km CO2